Last night, I attended a talk/interview with Brian Solis at Clearvale Second Floor. It turns out that Brian is a very good speaker and quite interesting. He touched on a wide variety of social media topics, but I wanted to zero in on one.
Everybody in the social media world says that you have to be sure to have a clear strategy and objectives before you dive into social media (and make a fool of yourself). Yet, when I look around I see companies everywhere that have Twitter and Facebook presences for no apparent reason. The Big Question is: WHY should I Friend/Follow you? What are you doing that is interesting or relevant to me? It is unclear in many cases.
Or worse, I see companies with fundamentally horrible customer service trying to put a social media veneer on the problem. Comcast Cares is a good example. Mention the name “Comcast” in any group gathering and everybody will groan. The good-intentioned people at Comcast Cares are doing their best, but until Comcast fixes their internal problems, starting with their culture, nothing will really improve.
So, where do you start to build your Social Media strategy?
Brian made the excellent point last night that it should start within. You can’t collaborate with your customer, prospective customers, partners, friends, etc. until you have strong, constructive, two-way engagement with your own employees. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are all of your employees passionate about your product or service?
- Are all of your employees passionate about making your customers successful?
- Are all of your employees capable of evangelizing your product or service? (Think Norstrom or Zappos.com).
- Do your employees know how to listen? Do they have the skills to engage in a two-way relationship?
- Does your Marketing Department know how to bring a customer issue to Customer Service and follow it through to complete customer satisfaction?
The point is that if you do not have the internal engagement with your employees and if they are not empowered to collaborate creatively with each other to solve problems, then you are probably not ready to go out and engage with your customers via social media.
A key thing to remember when you are setting up your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media presences is that no matter what strategy and goals you have (and you should have them) you also need to be ready to get customer feedback. …and you will get it. I promise.
The point is not to avoid negative customer feedback. The point is to show the community that you are listening and responsive. Dealing with a negative situation in a constructive way can be a powerful relationship-builder. Does your social media team know how to do this?
Brian Solis recently published the book Engage! The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success on the New Web. I am currently reading this and recommend it. It is fairly B2B focused and highly practical in its approach.
Clearvale Second Floor runs an excellent speaker series, with a focus on B2B social media. It is free of charge and if you are in the San Francisco Bay area, I recommend it. For more information.